Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15
In the last month and a half I have had the honor to sit for hours at a time with many people close to me who are getting up in their years. With the loss of mom 16 months ago, the precious gift of life is still fresh on my mind. We are not promised tomorrow.
I spent most of the afternoon with Phil and Julie Parshall, former missionaries to Bangladesh and the Philippines. Phil was a seminary professor of mine who served for 44 years overseas and has become one of the leading scholars and practitioners in Muslim ministries. Way ahead of his time in terms of mission contextualization, published by IVP press and others, fellowships at Yale and Harvard, living in inner-city Manila for years – the list could roll on. He was a highly sought out speaker and writer for much of his career. He is now staying in a retirement community not far from us and in his late 70s. I was humbled at the years and years of service this couple has given to the Lord. They continue to serve others in their missions retirement community as well as advise younger folks from a distance.
Last weekend I was able to spend time with my aunt and uncle who are in their mid70s and early 80s. They too, though living a very different life from Phil and Julie, retold their story of raising their children in the midst of challenging times. Their story is one of trial, heartache, and eventual contentment. To hear of their attempts to get up one more day and try again is inspiring. They were there at the hospital with me and my parents when I was born 2 months premature and have watched God unfold His miracle over my life. They have been a source of encouragement and supporters of our ministry for years.
Two weeks prior to that visit Charity and I spent time with her grandparents out in Arizona who are also in their early 80s. They spoke of their journeys, serving in ministry, and raising a family with numerous challenges. They have a daughter who has battled mental illness for years and have lived a life of sacrificial service. Simple truths and stories here and there marked our visit and challenged us deeply.
These last weeks have been pretty monumental in terms of regrouping for what God has next for us. As I sat with Phil and Julie today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the verse I wrote out here from James. Life is a mist. We have one life to live and certainly need to make it count. As I watch all of these folks reflect on their lives, I am first of all humbled by their prayer and financial support towards our ministry over the years. Secondly, I’m struck with this deep sense of purpose and urgency for the task ahead. God doesn’t waste experiences and there is something beautiful, strategic, and most likely challenging coming around the corner for us.
Yesterday, we celebrated my son Amos’ first birthday. Mom would have loved to be here with us. She wasn’t. She is gone.
Gone. It all ends for us at some point. All die. Life is a mist.
While sitting in Phil’s duplex today I began thinking about all the events at once – leaving Nepal, Amos’ first birthday, mom’s death, visits with aging friends and relatives. All die. My dear friends and family members who are getting older will live out their days in small houses, retirement communities, or assistive living facilities. Some of them will be remembered by people far and near; some of them won’t. They will drift off the radar and their lives will come to a close. Life is a mist. All die.
So this heart is heavy and a clarion call has been sounded to raise the banner again. Do what I can with the breath that I have and the life of Christ that is in me. To live is Christ and to die is gain. I’ve got one life. One. Let’s make it count.